Faceoff - WR Keary Colbert, Carolina Panthers
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Upside - by Chris Smith
During his rookie campaign last year, Keary Colbert finished 36th overall at the receiver position with 47 receptions for 754 yards and 5 touchdowns. He made an impact in his rookie season and should be able to improve on it for the upcoming campaign. His best value comes in the short to intermediate passing game and having Steve Smith back will open up that area for him to thrive in which was formerly the domain of Muhsin Muhammad.
Reasons for optimism in 2005
- Jake Delhomme developed Ďtunnel visioní with a hot Muhsin Muhammad last year who played himself into a fat contract with the Bears
- Colbert wasnít expected to have a big contribution out of USC as a rookie but the injury to Steve Smith provided him with tons of experience which will help his skills grow
- The # 2 receiver in Carolina has had at least 50 receptions every year since 1997
- Having the speedy Smith across from his will open up the intermediate routes for Colbert which he excels in
- He runs terrific routes, using crisp cuts and good body control
- He has tremendous hands and rarely drops a pass
Going into the 2005 season, Colbert is a clear-cut starter on a solid passing team. Having Steve Smith back along with his blazing speed will help Colbert a lot this season. Muhammad and Colbert like to run similar routes and Muhammad got most of those looks while Steve Smith will get down the field, opening up the underneath stuff for Colbert. He is almost a lock to finish with 50+ receptions this season and he should rank inside the top 36, making him a viable starter in fantasy leagues that start three or more receivers.
Downside - by Chase Stuart
Keary Colbert had an excellent career at USC, and surpassed most expectations as a rookie with the Panthers last year. Heís a skilled receiver and should be a good NFL player for a number of years, but Iím not so certain of his fantasy prospects.
The Panthers saw their top WR (Steve Smith) and top three RBs (Stephen Davis, DeShaun Foster and Rod Smart) suffer season ending injuries last year. This led to Keary Colbert becoming a much bigger part of the offense than initially planned, and helps to explain why he had such a big rookie year. However, there are two caveats with expecting him to make the next big leap to being a valuable fantasy contributor:
- The Panthers intend on being a run oriented team. When they made the Super Bowl in 2003, they ranked 3rd in rush attempts and 28th in pass attempts. Last year, due mostly to injuries, they ranked 11th in pass attempts and just 22nd in rush attempts. An improved rushing attack, along with better health on offense and defense, will lead to a drop in pass attempts for Carolina this year.
- While itís certainly great that Colbert had a strong rookie year, it really doesnít mean very much. FBGís Doug Drinen has studied rookie wide receiver production, and thereís little correlation between success in a receiverís first year and career long success. Players like Marc Boerigter, Antonio Bryant, Donteí Stallworth and Peter Warrick have teased us with similar rookie seasons, and then disappointed the following year.
I like Colbert as a player, but I havenít seen enough to think that he can be a consistent fantasy player as the number two WR on a run oriented team. Colbert caught less than half of his targets last year, well below average for star receivers.